Systems to Manage Sustainability and Assess Results
Victims of crime come from all walks of life and socio-economic groups. Crime victims are not only from vulnerable populations, they live in every neighbourhood and can be any age, gender or ethnicity. The Victims of Crime Fund (VOCF) provides funding for financial benefits paid to eligible victims of violent crime for physical and/or emotional injuries suffered. It also provides grant funding primarily to police-based Victim Services Units (VSUs) and specialized community-based assistance programs, to deliver programs that benefit victims during their involvement with the criminal justice process, as legislated under the Victims of Crime Act.
What we examined
We examined whether the department has adequate systems to manage the fund and meet the mandate set out in the Victims of Crime Act through:
- availability of adequate funding
- effectiveness of the financial benefits and grant processes
- effectiveness of management’s process to determine if desired results are being achieved
The department and VOCF program have adequate systems and processes to manage the day-to-day administration of the fund. However, the department is not completing the necessary strategic planning, analysis and reporting to establish desired results, and the resources necessary to achieve those results.
There is also no plan how to appropriately and productively use the fund’s growing accumulated surplus to best meet the needs of Albertans as intended by the Act. The government’s and department’s current budget process treats the fund like any other generally funded program even though it is self-financing and has its own independent funding source. Business and budgeting practices are potentially restricting operating decisions intended to better serve victims of crime.
What we found
The department has not completed the necessary analysis and forecasting of the financial resources required to achieve the desired results set out in the Victims of Crime Act. The department cannot presently answer the question: Are the resources currently available adequate and being used appropriately to deliver the desired result of accessible, appropriate and timely services to victims in accordance with the legislation?
The fund is growing at a rate faster than payments to victims are being made. The government’s and department’s current budget process, which is applied to the fund, is not designed to assess or consider its unique funding source, the changing needs of victims or increased fine surcharge revenue inflows. Because of this disconnect, and with revenue trending higher, the fund’s accumulated surplus continues to grow and these excess funds are sitting unused, without the department having a clear plan for intended future use. Underlying this is the lack of an achievable, budgeted and approved plan to guide the priorities and direction of the fund.
VOCF program management has drafted planning documents to set the priorities and guide the direction of the fund. The documents outline how the program can become more accessible,
appropriate and timely, and be more responsive to victims’ needs. Additional funding would be required to fully implement these objectives. However, the program does not have the ability to access the surplus funds to maintain and expand services to victims without approval from the department.
What needs to be done
The department needs to develop a plan that:
- clearly identifies what the actual current needs of the victim of crime population are and are forecasted to be
- identifies gaps in service
- shows how much funding will be required to meet these needs and what the impact on Albertans will be if it is not made available
- can be monitored and measured for success, with the results publicly reported
The department also needs to determine an appropriate and productive use of the VOCF’s accumulated surplus, which is supported by a proper financial analysis, as a necessary starting point to facilitate discussion with the Department of Treasury Board and Finance to show the impact current budgetary and business policies have on potential uses of the fund’s surplus and victims of crime.
Why this is important to Albertans
The Victims of Crime Act creates the VOCF to provide financial benefits and fund support programs for individuals who have suffered as a result of violent crime. Victims of domestic violence, families of homicide victims, children who have been sexually abused and the elderly who have been physically harmed, are among the Albertans who receive benefits from the fund and support as their cases proceed through the judicial process. If the fund is not managed appropriately, there is a risk that victims of crime will not receive the assistance and financial benefits to which they are entitled under the law. Also, programs for victims of crime that are run by police-based VSUs and community organizations may not receive sufficient grant funding to deliver on the intent set out in the Victims of Crime Act.